Angelique Tilly isn’t quite sure how the new school year is going to play out but one thing is for certain: her fourth grader is so eager to return to class she already has her first day of school clothes picked out. It’s a pink and white dress, black sneakers with a white-stripe, and ankle-length socks. Day two attire is all set, too, as is day three, four and five.
“Yeah, the whole week, just lined up in her closet,” said Tilly. “She even took some copy paper and wrote on it which days is which clothes. It’s color coded now. So, yeah, you can say she’s ready.”
Judging from the Arlington ISD Back to School Kickoff held Saturday at the parking lots of AT&T Stadium, many students are just as geeked to get back.
Not to mention teachers.
“I was at registration for our kiddos, and I can’t tell you how excited these kids are,” said Holli Hall, an instructional coach at Morton Elementary. “One thing teaching in a year of COVID has taught us is that students need teachers and teachers need students to be face-to-face, in the same classroom. Although I’m not quite sure who is more excited about the new school year, the kids or the teachers.”
Arlington ISD’s highly anticipated Back to School Kickoff, now in its seventh year, went on without missing a beat despite the second-consecutive year of safety protocols in place. The event was again held in a less-contact-is-more fashion with a drive-thru for families to pick up school supplies as opposed to standing in lines and marching into the stadium.
As vehicles pulled up to tables piled high with backpacks of all colors, volunteers placed the free, school-supplies-filled backpacks inside.
Arlington ISD parent and community engagement director Aaron Perales concluded that the event might be different than pre-COVID times, but it was still very much a success.
“Nothing much has changed from last year except maybe the enthusiasm of everyone just wanting to get back into the classroom,” said Perales, who added that an additional sponsor this year alongside the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation was Arlington Tomorrow Foundation. “I think the biggest change is the fact that we had more volunteers this year than before.”
More than 500 people signed up to serve in various capacities for the Kickoff, according to Perales, most of them representing community groups and organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Arlington Retired School Employees Association, which handed out hundreds of books.
“We’re just so happy to be able to be here and at least give out these books,” said member Leticia Graham. “If only we had enough books to give to each car. We would love it if every family that comes through here could get a book.”
In Kickoffs held before last year, participants were able to come inside the stadium, pick up their backpack and, if they like, get haircuts, dental and vision checks, and visit with educational vendors.
This year volunteers handed out information on how to get the dental and vision checkups as well as health screenings, immunizations, and, yes, that all-important haircut.
“There is nothing more exciting than all of these families, all of these kids coming out here, unless we get a really good season from the Cowboys,” said Arlington Mayor Jim Ross. “But there is nothing more important in this community than our kids. They are our future, and it is so exciting to be here and just be a small part of it.”
Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos agreed. He spent most of the day waving and chatting with families as their vehicles rolled up.
“This is the official kickoff for school because we have many, many parents and children here for backpacks, getting their supplies, getting ready for their first day of school,” said Dr. Cavazos. “The enthusiasm and the joy of the first day of school is important, but we also know it is important to be prepared. If you are prepared for the first day of school with your supplies and the things that you need, you will have a successful school year. A lot of enthusiasm and optimism is here, and for that we want to thank the many volunteers.”
One of those volunteers, Bawo Bodunrin, came with her two daughters in tow. Helping out at the Kickoff has become habitual for the Bodunrin family, which also includes her two daughters, one a Martin High School graduate and the other a junior there.
“We’ve been doing this since the program started,” Bodunrin said of the Kickoff. “The first thing I said to my girls was how early it was and if they still wanted to come. They were the ones getting me up.”
At Morton, principal Leigh Adams sent out scores of emails to remind her staff of the importance of volunteering.
“She’s really big on giving back,” said Hall. “But what we like about being here is the opportunity to visibly let families know that we are in their corner. We all need to be lifting each other up right now more than ever.”
School starts next week, Aug. 16! If you still need to register, visit our registration page to get started.